REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Not so big: Designing ideas off Ridge Street


ADDRESS: 140 Baylor Lane

NEIGHBORHOOD: Carter's View in the city off Ridge Street

ASKING: $409,900



SIZE: 1,836 fin. sq. ft., 806 unfin.

LAND: 0.0

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Greg Slater, Real Estate III, 981-6655

Is it our imagination, or are there suddenly a lot of new babies around town? Seems like everywhere we look, moms are reaching their hands to the sky, gazing hopefully at their bewildered progeny, and exclaiming with irritating enthusiasm, "So big!" 

Sarah Susanka is an architect famous for a series of books based on the opposite idea. Her books with their "less is more" philosophy range from The Not So Big House to Inside the Not So Big House and Outside the Not So Big House. (And then– what else?– The Not So Big Life. This is a lady who knows a catchy phrase when she hears it.)

Folks in Susanka's camp who are looking for a not so big life in a not so big house should mosey over to Carter's View, a new development above Ridge Street that will eventually consist of 29 "Craftsman style" single-family houses. Many of Susanka's ideas– shelter around activity, double-duty rooms, interior and diagonal views, variety in ceiling heights, and the importance of personal space– have been incorporated into the three completed houses ready for sale.

The model we toured is the middle one of the three. It's a three-story, Hardiplank-sided house on the entrance road of the subdivision. While it now looks over huge mounds of dirt and earth-moving equipment circling a lower cul-de-sac where more houses will eventually materialize, it also provides 270-degree views of mountains, one feature that sets the development apart from almost all others in town.

The house is different from the two surrounding it in several respects: it has a front-porch, a built-in sunny "banquette" (a mini breakfast nook), and extensive, almost ceiling-high, white paneling extending from the entryway up the stairs, through the living area, and into the dining room beyond the kitchen. This dazzling white treatment– in a tray ceiling with exposed beams in the living/family room and in built-in shelves and cabinets in every possible open space– would be overpowering if it weren't offset by the warmth of the light reflected from the oak floors and cherry-stained maple kitchen cabinets. (It's thanks to Susanka's "diagonal view" principle that the kitchen cabinets are visible from the front door, without any jarring effect.)

Views from the deck off the kitchen/ dining "double-duty" rooms across the back make the space especially appealing, and although the "viewshed" will eventually get cluttered when the rest of the houses are built, the lay of the land is such that people in these places high on the ridge may always be able to see the distant mountains.

Fixtures are modest but functional: Kohler plumbing and stainless appliances in the kitchen, contemporary understated light fixtures, and a gas fireplace with mantel. A half bath and coat closet are unobtrusively tucked off the entrance hall, while the washer/dryer are upstairs with three bedrooms, each with ample closets (the master has two walk-ins). The master bath has double sinks and actual tile on the floor and surrounding the bath/shower. (Alas, some inexplicable lapse permitted the placement of a fiberglass tub/shower surround in the guest bathroom and overpowering fans in the center of too many ceilings. What is the appeal of those things?) No hardwood floors up here– but the carpet seems sturdy.

Susanka's "variable ceiling height" philosophy was applied in the bedrooms and in the large unfinished basement– down there, ceilings seem to be at least 10 feet high, again thanks to the position of the house on its slightly sloping ridge-top lot. In fact, the "basement" has so much light and access that when it's finished it will be a fully functional living space rather than a dark, suffocating "rec room" like so many others, outfitted with a cheesy "entertainment center" to preoccupy wayward children (those "so-big" babies do grow up, alas) while mom and dad drown their sorrows upstairs.

The house has "structured wiring," which the agent explains means that it's prewired for data, audio, and security. City gas fuels the forced-air heat, and a heat pump provides AC in the summer. The house meets "Earthcraft" standards,  another plus for the "not so big energy bills" crowd.

Susanka's idea of "double-duty rooms" is most apparent in the layout of the first floor, where all the rooms flow seamlessly and are all visible and "talk-toable" from the kitchen, always the heart of a house. The seats of the banquette in one of the other houses rise to provide storage, and while that's not the case here, a similar idea is evident in the almost overwhelming number of shelves, nooks, and crannies for storage or bibelot display.

Folks with not so big imaginations will be glad to find this house all finished and ready to go. House hunters with a not so big inclination to accept the builder's design ideas will be glad to know that the developers pride themselves on flexibility and adaptability; those people can contract for one of the remaining lots and add their own flourishes to the basic "craftsman" format.

And once they've moved into Carter's View, with its views and easy access to swinging downtown, it's easy to imagine that both varieties of buyers will be not so restrained in their enjoyment of their not so big but definitely so stylish houses.


Each week, a brave local seller invites the Hook to provide an impartial, warts-and-all look at their real estate listing. E-mail yours today!